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You may already own an iPod. Or, with the holiday season upon us, perhaps someone may have bought you an iPod—a good possibility, as the mighty little music player has a whopping 82 percent share of the digital music player market.

But the iPod would not be nearly so great without iTunes, Apple's brilliant music-organizing software, and its latest iteration, iTunes 7, which offers a very neat and easy way to back up your music library in case of a computer crash. As most people collect music in a variety of ways—online downloads, store-bought CDs, through friends—having to recompile this kind of eclectic mix would be difficult indeed, making the option of backing up very desirable.

To back up all your media—including music, movies, videos, and even your playlists—to disc, go to the iTunes "File" menu, where you'll find the option for "Back Up to Disc." You're given several options, including backing up your entire library or only your iTunes music store purchases. The only caveat to this nearly automated backup is that your computer has to have a built-in CD or DVD burner, or an external one attached. The files on these backup discs will be read-only. In other words, the discs you create using this iTunes backup feature can be used only to restore; they can't be played in a CD or DVD player.

What happens if your computer crashes and you haven't backed up? I read on the Internet that Apple will allow you to restore iTunes-bought music if your computer crashes. But it presented a bit of a mystery: I couldn't find anything in Apple's literature that said this, and if it was true, it represented a dramatic shift in Apple's policy, which previously was, in essence, if you don't back up your music and your computer crashes, too bad, not its problem. A trip to the Apple store confirmed that you can retrieve music purchased from iTunes, but it's not something you will find an option for in iTunes; you'll need to call customer service or bring the computer authorized to sync with your iPod to the Apple store.

But what of your other music, not purchased from Apple? Thankfully, several software options found online can "extract" the music from your iPod, including iTunes store purchases, and put it back on your computer.

The program I like is a bit of free software called Ollie's iPod Extractor. When one of my computers crashed last year, this program saved me. As long as you have the tracks on your iPod, Ollie's will recover your songs and import them back to your computer. It cleverly checks to make sure it doesn't import songs already in your library, so you don't end up with duplicate tracks. If you have a large music library that includes thousands of songs, like I do, it will take a while to import your music. In my case it took a couple of hours, though I consider that meager recompense for recovering my vast library.

Ollie's is not the only game in town, but it was created for Mac computers. If you have a PC, you still have many options. Try Googling "iPod extractor PC" and you'll find, among others, iPodRip, which is compatible with Windows XP and 2000. IPodRip will let you download a trial copy good for 10 sessions, but if you want to buy it, it's $14.95. For $19.50 you could purchase PodUtil, which offers you the handy option of choosing which songs you want to extract, in case you don't want to transfer all your music to your computer, but try PodUtil's free trial first.

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